DA gets involved in battle over land purchase

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's district attorney threatened a grand jury investigation, if commissioners approve the purchase of 16 acres of land where only two are needed for a planned extension to McGinnis Ferry Road.

Danny Porter sent an e-mail to commissioners earlier this week saying the land purchase would be taken to the grand jury, along with other recent purchases, if it is approved.

"Frankly, it is with a great deal of shock that I read this agenda item particularly with what I know about the ownership of the property and in this time of budgetary distress," Porter wrote.

The land, east of Interstate 85 near Northbrook Parkway, is subject to two lawsuits with Old Peachtree Partners.

County officials sued in April 2008 after Ty Robinson, managing member of the limited liability corporation, backed out of a $1.1 million contract to sell the county just more than two acres of right of way and easements. In April 2009, commissioners began condemnation proceedings on the land to move forward with the extension project, which is being funded with stimulus money.

But lawyers for Old Peachtree Partners contend the county committed fraud and would have created an inverse condemnation with plans to build a sewer main pipe, cutting off the back 15 acres of property from road frontage.

As a settlement, lawyers have proposed the purchase of all 16 acres, at a price of $5,265,975.

On Tuesday, a day after the e-mail was sent, commissioners tabled the decision until August.

Porter declined to comment on the e-mail and land proposal.

Chairman Charles Bannister and Commissioner Shirley Lasseter did not return messages. On Thursday, Bannister declined to comment on the proposal because it was tied up in litigation.

As a limited liability corporation, the members' names, other than Robinson, are not available to the public.